The Eyes of the Dragon

I’ve finished reading a novel by Stephen King called The Eyes of the Dragon. The book is an interesting study on guilt, though not the kind you typically encounter. It is an examination that rivals Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth, there is sleep walking and a sort of haunting chant (“why did you burn me?” replaces “out damn spot”). The figures associated with each are characteristically different however.

The boy that is destroyed by his guilt is named Thomas, he is the second child of the king Roland. He is ousted in everything by his older brother Peter. Peter is well loved by his Father. The King seems to ignore Thomas, to put him aside. The resentment that Thomas harbors against Peter is secret, since Peter has not done anything to hurt him (we learn Peter is quite fond of him).

Thomas sees his father murdered while spying from a secret room, his older brother is framed for the murder. The man responsible for the murder, Flagg, is a demon that takes on the visage of a magician. He is the King’s trusted adviser. Flagg’s character is interesting in its own right. He loves anarchy, and King describes him as having “a particular instinct for mischief”. He is countless centuries old, coming to the kingdom every couple hundred years and turning the land into a bloody mess, only to disappear and return when the political scene has stabilized.

Flagg has decided that Peter will not have his influence when he comes to throne, so he decides now is the time to instill the anarchy he so loves. He poisons a goblet of wine and gives it to the king before his bed. Thomas sees this take place.

The rest of the story focuses on Peter’s capture and escape, and on the band of nobles which support Peter’s right to the throne and his innocence. Thomas is made king in the interim. He becomes reliant on Flagg for everything he decides. The kingdom is put to ruins. Thomas himself resorts to self loathing. He becomes a drunkard, extremely overweight, and begins to sleep walk, acting as if he were his father, casting accusations at himself. He goes to the place he saw the murder take place, standing as if he were watching the act again. King depicts Roland staring at the place where Thomas watches, accusing Thomas of burning him, while Thomas acts it out.

It is a good story. The story treats guilt as an all powerful force, able to change a persons very being. It’s rarer and rarer to see guilt treated this way. Thomas is effected in ways he sees and ways he doesn’t. Even at the story’s conclusion, his overwhelming guilt leads him to exile himself, to go off and kill Flagg. He is changed forever, and he will never forgive himself.

I often feel that the over whelming problem of this world is guilt and shame. People walk around heavy with it, often crushed by its weight. They may not even know or understand it. It doesn’t matter, it is an ontological condition. I think King sees this, he sees that we are changed by the things we do, whether he understand them or not. It is not psychological. It is something more.

~ by Barky on August 8, 2011.

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